It's Not a Police Problem: It's a Society Problem
- Category: Justice
- Published: Friday, 05 December 2014 22:46
- Written by Jerry Girley, Esquire
By Jerry Girley, Esquire
The repeated killings of the unarmed African American men by white police officers has brought this nation to the brink of a racial conflagration once again. We keep coming to this place because we have failed to fully perceive or to appreciate the true nature of the problem that confronts us. Police officers are on the front line and as such they are the tip of society's spear. That spear more often than not is aimed in the direction of the African American community.
The police enforce the formal and informal policies of society. The formalized policies are enacted into
laws by Congress and the respective state legislatures. However, society's informal policies are perpetuated through well established practices. These practices dictate how certain groups of individuals are to be treated and the degree of respect that they should be afforded. It is often the case that our formal laws and our informal practices exist is a constant state of tension. Our laws say that we do not tolerate the mistreatment of African Americans, by the police or any other group, but society's refusal to do something about the entrenched practices of the police says more about society than it does the police.
These practices are shaped by stereotypical perceptions and grotesque characterizations of African American men. From the time of slavery until the present, the Black man has been portrayed in American literature, in the political arena and in the arts as a savage beast who must be controlled at all cost. This then is the unofficial mandate some police officers proceed upon. Society has sent a dog whistle message to law enforcement regarding African American men, "Contain them, control them and confine them if necessary. No matter what happens we will back you up." Some will take offense to this assertion, but we simply need to look to the empirical data. The data speaks for itself. Very seldom are law enforcement officers held responsible for using excessive force against or taking the life of an African American male. District Attorneys are reluctant to indict them, even in the face of overwhelming evidence. Prosecutors depend heavily upon officers to gather the evidence necessary for a successful prosecution. This creates a symbiotic relationship between them. Similarly, the court system routinely dismisses lawsuits against officers because they do not want the officers to become skittish about performing their essential job duties. So it is society that encapsulates and enables police officers in a web of protection.
Related:The Suffocation Of Black Men
We know that all white officers are not prejudice against African Americans. However, some clearly are prejudice and those that are did not form their prejudices and biases in a social and political vacuum. They are the byproducts of a racially unjust society. We keep ending up in the same place, on the cusp of a racial Armageddon, because we are not willing to drill down to the core of the problem. It is easy to say that the problem is the police because that means that we are not in any way implicated in the problem. And if we are not implicated in the problem we are not obligated to do the difficult work of reaching a solution. The truth is that the problems run deep. And it requires a searching of our collective national soul. To that end, it would be very helpful for the faith community to chime in and offer some moral guidance. Whether we recognize it or not, addressing oppression in any form is a moral imperative. So far, there has been a thunderous silence that has imitated from the temples, the churches and the mosques. Moral leadership is desperately needed at this time.
The problems of racial mistrust and racial misapprehension must be addressed from the inside out. Each one of us must look within ourselves and ask those difficult and searching questions. Questions such as, do I tacitly agree with the brutal treatment of communities of color because subconsciously I believe that they are inherently prone to violence and to predisposed to criminal behavior ? Am I willing to turn a blind eye or a deaf ear to the plight of the oppressed because that is the unfortunate cost of keeping me comfortable in my suburban utopia? These are questions that no one wants to ask. But these are questions that we all must ask ourselves. Remember, the police march to the mandate of society. If we give them a new mandate, then they will change their practices. The police are us, they are a very concentrated manifestation of all that is good or bad within our respective communities. If we don't like what we see in their actions then we need to do something about ourselves.
Founded in 2007, The Girley Law Firm, P.A. focuses it efforts in three main areas of the law: Civil Rights, Criminal Defense and Social Security. Web site: http://www.girleylawfirm.com/
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